Saturday, July 24, 2010

Remixing the blog: sampling my artist theories into discussions on the future of film

For what it's worth, here is a transcript of an interview I just gave for a large daily newspaper in Brazil that will soon go live in conjunction with my appearance in Salvador this upcoming week. I have slightly modified the grammar of the questioner for clarification purposes only and have added quite a few links to other posts throughout this blog as a way to indicate how staying attuned to ones thought process via blogging quite naturally feeds into their thought process when having a dialogue about their Conceptual practice no matter what venue that dialogue takes place in.

Q: Some movie critics (as a local one, André Setaro) believe that "making films has lost its mystery, its magic, because now anyone can make it." What is your opinion about it?

A: If films have lost their mystery it's probably because too much big money controls their distribution and then the bottom line of finance dictates how stories should be told for entertainment purposes. It's still to early to tell, but maybe the new media art that is starting to get made with mobile phones, Flips, webcams, etc., will challenge artists to relocate the mysterious resonance of cinema's past in totally new ways. At least this was the challenge I set for myself with Immobilité.

Q: Semcine‘s director, Walter Lima, believes that it is important to discuss not only form, but also content. Do you think that form is less valorized then "story"?

A: It's hard for me to make a distinction between form, content and even context too. Obviously, when you write a novel or compose a soundtrack, or direct a movie, you develop formal strategies that will indicate a particular style or state of presence for the work to operate under. But you can't even start this process without some sense of what the content will be. For me it's about accessing the content or what, as a remix artist, I would call the source material, and then taking that source material and manipulating it through all kinds of aesthetic filters, some of which I invent before I make the work, some of which I borrow from others, and some of which I discover while making the work. These days I would say that content feels like story data, image data, literary data, philosophical data, etc. For example, with Immobilité I wanted to tell both a love story and a story of loss and so I researched and remixed all kinds of philosophical and literary texts and from these texts I assembled a pool of source material that then became my reservoir of content-data that I would use to tell the story of Immobilité. But the actual form of the final work is very fluid because it takes on many different scales and passes through many different distribution systems. The work is not just the 78 minute screening. It is the entire field of distribution because this too effects the formal inventiveness of any work of art.

Q: Is form as important for fictional films as it is for video art? Do you believe that there exists any differences between them (films and video art)?

A: This is a good question because something that I am discovering is that I am now composing digital narratives that are at once in the tradition of avant-garde film, experimental video art, and postmodern metafiction. Can you imagine what it would be like to look through your mobile phone camera as a literary novelist, capturing low-quality video images, and thinking to yourself that you are in the process of making a feature-length film that is no longer tied to the mainstream or even independent movie distribution system? If you can imagine this, then you are starting to enter my world during the making of Immobilité.

Q: Your name does not appear at the IMDB website, one of most famous film search websites. Does this prove that the film industry does not see connections between art and films?

A: Yes, or it proves that up to this moment I have been successfully resisting the entire movie world apparatus in all of its manifestations. For example, I don't send out DVD screeners, I don't really publicize the film in a traditional industry way, I never enter film festivals, I find funding sources that require no specific product from me but want to support my vision as an artist who makes new work for no other reason than to see what happens, and I work with actors and crews who are friends, fellow writers, intellectuals and media artists. These are people who are not connected to the film industry, not even on the margins. But this may change soon. The fact that, for the first time since I premiered the work in New York at my solo exhibition at the Chelsea Art Museum, I am now screening Immobilité outside of a museum exhibition context, says something. Perhaps screening Immobilité at Semcine in Salvador is an indication that we are witnessing a significant turn in the life of this work of art.

Q: Why do you consider Immobilité a "foreign film"?

In the US, art house cinema from abroad has always been referred to as foreign film. But more importantly, as Atom Egoyan once wrote, every film is a foreign film. This is a beautiful idea that directly correlates to the philosophical impetus of Immobilité.

Q: Immobilité received financial support grants for innovative art research, artist residencies, and Tate Media. In the future, do you think that big studios can put money on experimental films made using cell phones, for example?

A: Sure, why not? The big studios can do whatever they want. Like the banks, in a way, they are "too big to fail," but again, what kind of mobile phone film would attract this kind of funding? The film's story would probably have to be severely compromised to guarantee a better ROI [return on investment). But what happens when the entire field of distribution goes through its next phase of radical transformation? For example, have you ever viewed cinematic works of art on an iPad? Personally, I find it hypnotic. Do I really need a big studio to produce my work for iPad distribution? There must be a creative alternative.

Q: More and more, people are getting used to watching home-made quality videos at YouTube. Do you think that the industry can find a way to make the public pay to watch this kind of work in theaters?

A: Maybe not theaters, but museums are trying to develop this audience. There is a new initiative, for example, between YouTube and the Guggenheim museum. It is called YouTube Play: A Biennial of Creative Video. So it's already happening, it should be noted, without the traditional film world. The future of cinema is the Googleheim.

Q: What has been the public reaction after viewing Immobilité?

A: As always with very difficult work, I think it's mixed, but mostly positive. Someone in Athens, at UNREALTIME, my comprehensive retrospective exhibition, said that after seeing the whole thing it felt like they had read nine novels. Others said it reminded them of Warhol's experiments in "duration art" and voyeuristic "screen tests." The screen will definitely test any voyeur who tries to sit through it.

Q: At the Tate website, people can download your film. Lots of artists are against free-distribution, and now in Brazil we are having lots of discussions on this topic. What is your opinion about it?

A: Well, people can download the trailer at the Tate and a few other trailer remixes at the film's website which, to my mind, is also part of the entire work. This means the work is not just the 78 minute feature-length "foreign film" although of course that is the main attraction. But the video and audio remixes, the Director's Notebook, the limited edition poster, the experiments in the field of distribution, etc., it all comes together to create something that is modeled after art house or auteur-styled cinema but is in fact something else altogether different.

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